, SRINAGAR, Sep 26 – Militants stormed a police station and an army base in Indian Kashmir on Thursday, killing ten in an attack the state’s chief minister said was aimed at derailing peace talks between India and Pakistan.
Three militants wearing army fatigues lobbed grenades and opened fire early Thursday at the Hiranagar police station near the border with Pakistan, around 200 kilometres (124 miles) from the main Kashmiri city of Srinagar, police said.
They then hijacked a truck and drove to a nearby army base in Samba district in the southernmost part of the state where a fierce gunbattle with soldiers took place and Indian tanks were deployed, eyewitnesses and police said.
The day long gunbattle ended with all three militants killed inside the base, director general of police Ashok Prasad told AFP.
The attacks are set to overshadow a meeting between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly this weekend, the first top level dialogue in three years.
“This attack in Jammu is aimed at derailing the dialogue process,” said Omar Abdullah, chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir state.
Separately, army spokesman Colonel Brijesh Pandey told AFP that Indian forces were battling four groups of militants in the mountainous north of the state where he said 12 people were thought to have been killed.
Premier Singh condemned “the heinous terrorist attack” on the police station and army base in a statement, but pledged that it “will not deter us” as he seeks to resolve problems with Pakistan through dialogue.
Militant attacks have a history of stalling stop-start peace efforts by the two neighbours, who have fought three wars since independence. India accuses Pakistan of abetting the groups which strike Indian targets.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said the militants carried out the latest attacks after crossing the border on Thursday morning, in a reference to Pakistan.
They targeted the police station before hijacking a truck and driving in the direction of the army base, police and witnesses said.
“Four policemen and two civilians were killed by the militants in the attack on the police station,” police official Prasad said. Two other policemen and a civilian were injured in the attack.
A senior army officer, who did not want to be named, said four soldiers, including an officer, were then killed in the gunbattle inside the army base.
A witness said the militants targeted the cleaner of the truck as they fled the police station. “They asked him where the driver was. They then killed the cleaner and asked the driver to drive them off,” said the man, who did not give his name.
At the army camp, gunshots were heard from inside the walled compound. Two officers were seen running out carrying an injured man.